Industrial Wrights and Magic VII – Small Cities and Magical Businesses

Now that the various ongoing family emergencies are – hopefully – under control enough to have a little spare time, I shall be trying to catch up around here a bit. This series may finish up in relatively small bites though.

Now that we’ve reached Cities things are getting complicated. Cities will have high level characters living in them – and that will have as much of an impact as high-level characters usually do.

A Small City has 10,001-24,000 inhabitants (Roughly 1800 to 4400 Households), and a basic magic budget of 2d8 x 7200 GP, averaging 64,800 GP. They have three Foundations (although those vary enough that I won’t be addressing them here), and they’ve also passed three major thresholds:

  1. They are long past the point where any wilderness-oriented characters can be expected to be hanging around. Like towns before them, except in special circumstances, Cities will dominate enough territory around them to not leave a lot of true “wilderness”.
  2. The population is now high enough that – even if each household only contributes 1 GP per month in fees (a very small portion of a households Profession or Craft-derived income) fees can support a variety of city services.
  3. With a +6 Settlement Modifier and multiple rolls, there will, at a minimum, be two eleventh level professionals (13,000 GP Wealth By Level) and two ninth level commoners (8000 GP Wealth By Level) about – as well as a lot of seventh level types. There may be characters around of up to level fourteen (27,000 GP Wealth By Level). Do they keep that money stacked in the corner? No, of course, not; while some of it may be tied up in a home, for the most part it’s going to be invested – and investing in fee-for-use city services and assorted magical facilities is low-risk, low maintenance, and high-return.

Thus a Small City has reached the point where many of it’s basic services will belong to specific people (or families) and will be managed for-profit. Fortunately, going into competition with an overly-greedy provider is extremely easy, which will keep prices reasonable-to-cheap. In the real world competition tended to be stifled by guilds, restrictive laws, and legal proceedings against outsiders.

That doesn’t work nearly as well in d20, where the most likely source of new competition is some high level adventurer, who possesses vast personal power, superhuman skills, and combat magic, has an unpredictable temperament, and is used to dealing with opposition by massacring it. Sure, they MAY be more restrained in town – but in that case they’re likely to be friends with a super-diplomat or some such.

Now a high level adventurer may choose to enforce his or her own monopoly, but this will involve a lot of gratuitous unilateral interference with other matters – which takes us back to very familiar territory indeed; an oppressed populace and a ruthless, powerful, overlord. How often does THAT little scenario come up? It’s NEVER a good idea to hang an “Approved Target!” sign on yourself.

In practice, this means that a Small City can simply be presumed to have

  • Carcass Chutes with Leathermaking and Preservation Modules.
  • Cleansing Fountains
  • Composting Chutes.
  • Dedicated Phantom Mills (Almost certainly including street-cleaning and minor repairs).
  • Endless Skeins
  • An Eternal Flame Brazier
  • Millshafts
  • Perpetual Fountains

In addition, some entrepreneur will be using a Foundation Stone to for heavy transport, someone might be running an Owl Post, and – if the rolls for high-level characters were good – an Endless Lumberyard and Perpetual Soup Fountain (Type 0, 2 Gallons/Round, 7500 GP, provides almost 30,000 gallons of soup per day at about 1500 calories per gallon. Sure, people will get tired of soup – but that’s quite enough to drastically mitigate the effects of any siege or famine) or Endless Sideboard (with the takeout menu option) are also quite likely.

Even before the actual city budget gets spent… a Small d20 City is going to be well-lit, surprisingly clean, free of smoke, low-odor, equipped with magical industrial facilities, and with plenty of water. The wealth-by-level rules pretty much guarantee prosperity – and also explain why there isn’t a lot of petty crime in most d20 worlds. Traditionally, petty criminals arose from among the poor and desperate who could not find work that paid enough to survive on.

In d20 level one characters automatically have quite enough resources for a couple to be happily prosperous. It doesn’t have any poor-and-desperate adults save by game master contrivance (presumably just as scarce for NPC’s as it is for PC’s). Eclipse says that rather young children can have some skill points. Pathfinders rules on “Young” characters tell us that a character can be a full-fledged first level Expert, Adept, or Warrior at age nine (and could, in theory, reach epic levels before age ten). The basic d20 rules tell us that any kid who as so much as one skill point can readily support themselves. After all, “Profession / Thief “ is no easier to acquire, and no more profitable, than “Profession / Leatherworker”, or “Profession / Scrounging”, or any other Profession or Craft skill – but it’s a lot more dangerous. And you cannot be an effective petty thief with no skills. Ergo… petty criminals are rare. This is, of course, only to be expected. When you come right down to it, one of the main attractions of roleplaying games is escapism – which is why grimdark role playing games tend to be fringe productions.

As for spending the actual 64,800 GP budget… since we now only need to look at some big-ticket items we have some hard choices. A Small City still has to depend on the countryside for supplies and raw materials – there simply isn’t going to be enough magic available to provide EVERYTHING that it needs – so there will be a few choices to be made.

  • For general utility – and basic defense – it’s hard to beat a City Father (24,000 GP). It’s also fair enough to say that having one more of less says “This Is A City!”.
  • A Basic City Store provides some (150 GP/Day) support for the city government and a modest, but very helpful, source of supply (8225 GP).
  • A Trading City, Distant Outpost, Mountaintop Hideout, or similar city will probably go for a couple of City Gates (28,000 GP) – either to and from a larger trading hub to hook into a gate network or to a couple of other cities to form a part of a ring of gates. Basically… it the surrounding territory won’t provide resources in sufficient quantities and varieties, they have to be brought in from somewhere else.
  • Cities in better areas will usually prefer a Wind Tower (The Practical Enchanter, 29,000 GP) – allowing the city to (mostly) control the weather in a twenty-four mile radius. That’s useful in so many ways that just listing the important things it affects would take several paragraphs. It’s also a serious magical defense. A conventional force will have a good deal of trouble dealing with continuous storms and blizzards. Admittedly, the only “conventional forces” that you’re likely to encounter in a rational d20 world are orcs, goblins, and similar “mass of troops” species, but it’s still a start.
  • That leaves about 4000 GP either way. I’m going to presume that one of a Small Cities three Foundations, or someone – likely a city administrator defending their position – will pad the budget a bit, allowing the addition of a 6500 GP item; either a Bone Vault or a Dark Rampart. The Bone Vault is probably most useful – but the Dark Rampart addresses the fear of massive undead outbreaks comfortingly directly.

A Large City has 24,001-50,000 inhabitants (about 4400 to 9100 Families), three Foundations (still not considered) and a budget of 2d12 x 9600 GP, averaging 124,800 GP. It also has a +9 Settlement Modifier and rolls three times for major NPC’s. That means three Professionals of levels (1d6+13) with anywhere from 35,000 to 96,000 GP and three Commoners of levels (1d6+11), along with quite a few others.

That means that a Large City has passed another Threshold; there will be people there who will control major organizations and businesses in their own rights – and regardless of the enterprise, it’s core is going to be built on magic. Like it or not… magic makes things easier. Doing things by mundane means may require fleets of ships, elaborate machines and hundreds of workers, a network for training nurses and doctors, producing medicines, and elaborate medical machines, or hundreds of workers to harvest crops… and a network of City Gates, a Construction Wagon, or a Healing Spring will do it faster, better, and far, far, cheaper. When you come right down to it, that’s what makes magic attractive. It bypasses all the restrictions and limitations of reality.

So we’re going to have businesses built on large, expensive, pieces of magic. They’re mostly going to be catering to adventurous types, because that is quite literally where the money is; it’s the adventurers who have a lot of free cash laying about. Those expensive pieces of magic are going to be built using the “immobile” modifier since that’s the only reliable way to make sure that those same adventurers don’t run off with the magic that makes your business possible.

So lets make a few businesses.

Mystic Massages (10,000 GP)

This cheerful spa offers massages, hot towels, steam rooms, manicures, mudpacks, scented baths, pedicures, hot wax, salts, and acupuncture. For customers with a more serious problems it also offers Remove Disease, Remove Curse, Remove Blindness/Deafness, and Cure Serious Wounds. While such treatments are only available a couple of times a day each, they are generally available on-demand and at prices considerably lower than the cost of hiring a spellcaster.

  • Spell Level(s) Two (After Ambient Magic Limitation) x Caster Level Three x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command-“Word” Activated x .5 (Immobile) x .4 (two uses/Day) x.8 (Requires at least an hour of attention from a good masseur to take effect) = 1728 CP, or 6912 GP for all four spells. Personally I’d throw in another 3000 to cover all the facilities and some minor stuff; a Cleansing Ring, Type I Perpetual Fountain, and Forgestaff will provide cleaning, water, heat, and steam for around 1200 GP, leaving enough to pay for some nice facilities and tools.

Spa’s like this aren’t likely to sell all their spells in any single day – but there will likely be a demand for at least a couple of them (most often Cure Diseased and Cure Wounds of course). Even if they only charge 25 GP apiece, at two spells per day it will be less than seven months before the place pays for itself – at least assuming that the basic “spa” part is self-supporting. It should be; plenty of spas do just fine without offering immediate, blatantly effective, magical cures to select customers.

This is a fairly low-end magical business – but it can remain useful over a fair range of levels and offers a nice sort of alternative reward; you rescued the owners daughter? How about a couple of free magical massages for the party each week?

Marvelous Tattoo Parlor (24,000 GP, Greater Version (Double Bonuses) 48,000 GP).

A Marvelous Tattoo Parlor can provide and sustain a total of 144 (6 per hour x 24 hour duration) magical tattoos, although no one individual may have more than three and the effects of similar tattoos do not stack. Available tattoos normally include the following seven – although the game master may opt to include others or allow more specialized versions. (one for expertise in skills seems particularly appropriate).

  • +1 luck bonus on attack rolls.
  • +1 deflection bonus to AC.
  • +2 resistance bonus on saving throws.
  • +2 competence bonus on attack rolls.
  • Spell Resistance 23 (33 with Greater Parlor)
  • +2 Enhancement Bonus to any one Basic Attribute
  • Cast Spells at +1 Spellcaster Level when determining level-based variables.

Tattoos normally only last for a limited time (or until Dispelled or the user is slain) – but are quite cheap: a tattoo normally costs 5 GP/Month it will last, 50 GP/Year for longer periods.

  • Marvelous Tattoo Parlor: Create Magic Tattoo, Renewable (+1 Spell Level). Spell Level 3 x Caster Level 13 x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated) = 70,200 GP, +100 x 100 GP (materials cost) = 80,200 GP. x.5 (Immobile) x.9 (User must have a Skill Speciality in whatever he or she uses to draw tattoos (Craft (drawing), Craft (painting), Craft (calligraphy), or a similar Craft skill) x.8 (User must have Skill Focus or Skill Emphasis on their tattoo-making skill) x.8 (number of days/renewals must be pre-committed when the tattoo is created, and cannot thereafter be rescinded even if the recipient has the Tattoo dispelled or they’re killed or some such) = 23,100 GP. Given that Tattoo Parlors are traditionally more or less holes-in-the-wall with a few sets of tools, I’ll call it 24,000 GP in total.

Renewable (+1 Spell Level): A new casting may – instead of producing a new instance of the spell – add it’s duration to that of an existing instance regardless of the current range to the target. If the instance is a summoned creature, this cures said summons of one status condition, one negative level, 3d6 hit points, and one lost attribute point, and restores one use of a limited-use ability each time the spell is recast) rather than a new one arriving.

A Marvelous Tattoo Parlor offers cheap boosts to low-level adventurers and civilians – but effectively only offers long-term buffing spells. That’s useful, but once dispel magic and buff-removal becomes a common tactic, such enhancements usually won’t last for long. There are ways to defend them of course – but most such ways are very expensive and very limited. Fighter-types, of course, can afford a feat or two to do it – but most magical types have better uses for their feats.

  • Greater Marvelous Tattoo Parlors use a version of the spell that doubles the effect (+4 Spell Levels) and lasts for two days as a base (+1 Spell Level) with the built-in metamagic modifier (-2 spell levels for 5 levels) = Level Six. This raises the price to 46,200 GP, but allows the structure to support 288 Tattoos, each twice as powerful as the baseline ones – resulting in no particular change in the baseline price for tattoos, although I’d probably put one in anyway because they people running the place could.

The “Renewal” option is obviously quite powerful in conjunction with an unlimited-use magical device; it allows you to keep a fair number of instances of the spell around. Is it overpowered?

Well, lets do it another way. Create Magic Tattoo already lasts for a full day. Making it last a full year is +8 levels of Persistent, and I’ll throw in +4 levels of Amplify to double the effect. Given that this is going to last for a year… we can throw in some modifiers beyond the -3 levels for 7+ levels of built-in Metamagic; the person being tattooed takes 1d4 Dexterity damage due to being stiff and sore (-1 spell level), the tattooist becomes Exhausted in the process (-1 spell level). That gives us… A level nine effect. So Spell Level Nine x Caster Level Seventeen x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command-“Word” Activation = 275,400 GP plus 10,000 GP for the material components. That’s expensive – but then we can apply… x .5 (Immobile) x .2 (one use per day) x .5 (the actual casting requires eight full hours of being tattooed) x.9 (User must have a Skill Specialty in whatever he or she uses to draw tattoos (Craft (drawing), Craft (painting), Craft (calligraphy), or a similar Craft skill) x.8 (User must have Skill Focus or Skill Emphasis on their tattoo-making skill) = 10,274.4 GP. Users will have to return once a year, but this version can effectively maintain 365 Tattoos – and they’re even notably harder to dispel. If we stick with 50 GP for a tattoo… the place will pay for itself inside of seven months. And there will be plenty of customers. +4 to an attribute? A +2 on all related skill checks? Pays for itself even if you’re just making weekly profession or craft checks.

Personally I’m going to stick with the Renewal option in most cases. It may look rather efficient – but it’s actually a good deal less effective (and more manageable in the game) then simply going for a long-term high-level effect in the first place.

Altars and Shrines of War channel the power of the Gods of War into the world, blessing the weapons of those who make offerings there. A mere Altar can maintain a supply of +1 weapons, while a Shrine – with it’s attendant priest – can maintain a enough more powerful weapons to equip a legion.

  • Altar of War: Magic Weapon, Renewable (+1 Spell Level) . Spell Level Two x Caster Level Three x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) = 6000 GP. Can maintain up to 30 +1 Weapons or bundles of ammunition. Upgrades may increase the number of sustainable weapons by +10 weapons per +1 Caster Level for +1000 GP.
  • Shrine of War: Greater Magic Weapon, Renewable (+1 Spell Level), Ambient Magic Limitation (-1 Spell Level). Spell Level Three x Caster Level 8 (for +2), 12 (for +3), 16 (for +4), or 20 (for +5) x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) x .6 (requires the daily attendance of a priest of a god of war to operate) = 14,400 GP (+2), 21,600 GP (+3), 28,800 (+4), and 36,000 (+5). A Shrine of War can maintain 60 weapons (a bundles of 50 pieces of ammunition counts as one weapon) per caster level.

Altars and Shrines of War can make a magical weapons – a combatants bread and butter – available cheaply enough to let them carry a selection of them, possibly throwing in a few Weapon Crystals to provide relevant special abilities. Admittedly, the effects can be dispelled, and you’ll have to return to town to get them renewed – but when “renting” a magical weapon (of whatever bonus) can reasonably be priced at about 1 GP a month, martial classes can hardly help but benefit.

A Monument of the Enduring Warrior uses the Greater Magic Armor spell to enhance Armor and Shields. Since that spell is only level two such a monument operates without a priest at a cost of 4000 GP (+1), 8000 GP (+2), 12,000 GP (+3), 16,000 GP (+4), and 20,000 GP (+5). Given that such a Monument can also support 60 items per caster level, this allows low-level combatant characters to get some substantial bonuses on the cheap.

Fantastic Stable (50,000 GP)

A Fantastic Stable “sells” (rents?) – magical mounts. Unfortunately, such mounts are summoned creatures. While they are obedient and well-trained mounts, they will remain for a maximum of one year and can be dispelled like any other summoning – although the Stables caster level of 17 makes this somewhat difficult. On the plus side, buying a mount (or a group of lesser mounts) is fairly cheap. After all, once the Fantastic Stable has been constructed it’s operating expenses (the salaries for a dozen or so attendants, basic maintenance, and some food) are quite reasonable and the mounts are effectively free. Where else can you pick up a Manticore or Unicorn to ride for a year for about the cost of a conventional warhorse?

Summon Mount is a somewhat more limited version of Summon Nature’s Ally: it only summons creatures to ride on, offers a considerably smaller (three at each level) selection, and they always show up next to the caster. It does, however, includes appropriate saddle, tack, and harness, the creatures are considered to be well-trained mounts, and it can be Renewed; a new casting may – instead of producing a new creature – add it’s duration to that of an existing summons regardless of where it is, incidentally curing said summons of one status condition, one negative level, 3d6 hit points, one lost attribute point, and restoring one use of a limited-use ability each time the spell is recast) rather than a new one arriving. Otherwise, all the usual limitations of summoned creatures apply normally.

If you summon a mount one level less powerful than you are entitled to you get two of them. If two or more levels less you get four.

Available Mounts:

  • I: Riding Dog (Medium), Equine (Pony/Mule/Horse) (Large), Hippocampus (Large).
  • II: Axe beak (Large), Hippogriff (Large), Heavy Warhorse (Large).
  • III: Giant Eagle (L), Pegasus (Large), Large Wolf (4 HD).
  • IV: Dire Boar (Large), Griffon (Large), Giant Scorpion (Large).
  • V: Manticore (Large), Orca (Huge), Unicorn (Large).
  • VI: Elephant (Huge), Nightmare (Large), Wyvern (Large).
  • VII: Kirin (Large, CR7 version), Mastodon (Huge), Triceratops (Huge).
  • VIII: Dragon Horse (Large), Roc (Gargantuan), Young Dragon (Chromatic, Metallic, or otherwise as the GM permits. Usually Large).
  • IX: Androsphinx (Large), Celestial Charger Unicorn (Large), Dragon Turtle (Huge).
  • Fantastic Stable: Summon Mount V, Persistent +12 (Lasts for a year) -3 Spell Levels (7+ levels of built-in Metamagic) -1 Spell Level (Takes a full minute to cast) -2 Spell Levels (Requires an elaborate marble stable complex as a focus) -2 Spell Levels (Operator takes 1d4 points of wisdom damage and becomes Exhausted, which is why a dozen or so attendants usually split the duty) = Level 9 x Caster Level 17 x 1800 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) x.4 (two uses/day) x .6 (Takes a full hour to set up for a summons) = 33,048 GP plus about 17,000 GP for the Stables – for a net cost of 50,000 GP. That’s a fair chunk of change. But a Fantastic Stable can “sell” two type V mounts per day – or trade one of them in for two Type IV’s or four Type III’s or lower. Sure, they “only” last for a year – but if they charge a mere 200 GP per casting and only get – say – three customers per week (how many nobles would like a Unicorn Mount / emergency healer?)… the place will still have paid for itself and be turning quite a profit within two years.

This variety of Magical Businesses can have a substantial impact on a setting. Most notably they can provide the non-spellcasters with cheap and easy access to the basic tools and enhancements that they need to do their jobs AND with important links back to society and a home base – while being of far less help to primary spellcasters. It isn’t really enough to fix the balance issues in the game, but it will help a bit.

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7 Responses

  1. Now I have this image of each city having its own mage college and associated football team. Hmm, maybe adventure hooks involving sabotaging the other team or trying to expose the other team cheating. Of course I just find the image of the various mage colleges hosting a football league highly amusing.

  2. Good to hear that the family drama(s) are settling down for you; those are never fun.

    I wanted to ask, given that Renewable seems to be a new application of metamagic, what metamagic theorem would it be a part of?

    • Ah well. In this case less drama, more people with broken limbs needing care…

      Renewable falls under the Stabilize Metamagical Theorem, although it most commonly appears built into a spell formula. It originally came up with devices that conjured mounts, so that they could sustain a few without having to shift to new ones all the time.

  3. Hi! I’m not sure that this is the correct place for this, but it’s the only “write you” I found….

    Having now got the Eclipse Compiled book and the Practical Enchanter book, and Legends of High Fantasy is on the way to me, I need some guidance.

    It’s easy to see how this works with a D20 type campaign. But what I want to use these on is Palladium – most notably Rifts. Any ideas on how the conversion might work?

    • This works. There used to be an Email but all it ever seemed to attract was spam, so these days things just get funneled to the blog.

      And the response got rather long for a comment – so here’s a preliminary answer as a short article

  4. […] GP is invested in a Greater Marvelous Tattoo Parlor, entitling her to the use of three Tattoos. She normally uses +4 Con, Spell Resistance 33, and a +2 […]

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